I've always been somewhat of a peacemaker by nature. I remember in fourth grade when there were two "sides" within the girls in our very small class, I was the one to whom people from both sides would come to talk about the problems with the other side. It seems like that experience was an indicator of the role in which I would often find myself throughout life - someone who is more likely to be the neutral confidante than the person in direct conflict with another person.
I suppose there are benefits to this position. There is something gratifying about feeling like people tend to trust you enough to share their problems with you. And I certainly can't say I wish I had more experiences of being on one side or another in a conflict. My bent toward peacemaking leads me to do whatever I can do to avoid conflict, and for the most part I would say I've been fairly successful.
Where I haven't been as successful, though, is figuring out how to make peace within myself. Probably a year or so ago, I started learning about the enneagram. In case you're not familiar, the enneagram is defined as "a system of personality typing that describes patterns in how people interpret the world and manage their emotions" (https://www.truity.com/enneagram/what-is-enneagram). It wasn't a very big surprise that the one that seemed to fit me best was type 9 - the peacemaker.
The enneagram reveals a lot about not just people's behavioral tendencies but also the motivations behind those tendencies. And one aspect of type nines that really resonated with me was that they have a strong desire for peace - both with others and within themselves. So when it comes to making various kinds of decisions, a nine is going to ask, "which choice will lead to me maintaining a sense of peace with others and/or within myself?"
I have a really hard time ever escaping this question. Probably my biggest underlying motivation in almost anything is to determine whether or not it will lead to peace. What should I be doing right now to create or maintain peace in my life? What do I need to get done so that I feel at peace? What do other people need me to do so they experience peace? On and on, my brain asks these kinds of questions.
And when I sense there is a lack of peace - in myself or in those around me - my world feels like it is in turmoil. All I want is to find a way to make peace a reality again.
The trouble is, sometimes I mix up what part of making peace is my job and what part isn't. Is peace really something I can make? Do I actually have the ability to conjure up peace where there isn't peace? The prophet Isaiah writes, "Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us." (Isaiah 26:12) If God is the One who establishes peace, what is my job as a peacemaker supposed to look like anyway?
In one of the devotionals of the Biola University 2019 Advent Project, Jessica Snell writes these words about the peace of Christ: "We can’t generate this peace, and it is not always a feeling (much as I wish it were!). This peace comes from our Lord, and it is something we receive." In other words, when it comes to peace, we aren't really the ones who make it. God does.
I wonder what would happen if I regularly reminded myself that God has already done the hard work of making peace. He has established peace and invites me to partake in it, to receive it as a gift. Would I let go of some of the pressure I put on myself to "make peace" if I kept remembering that God has already established it? Maybe if my peacemaking came out of the overflow of the completed work Jesus has done rather than my own desperate attempts to make everything right, I would be less prone to feeling overwhelmed.
I admit my first reaction when I don't "feel" peace is to almost panic. I think, Why do I feel this way? I shouldn't feel this way! But I wonder if sometimes what I perceive to be a "lack of peace" might be something God has put in place or has allowed to be there to lead me to take some kind of action. Or even crazier, maybe it's simply due to a very practical problem I have the ability to solve.
I'm pretty sure sometimes I over-spiritualize this struggle with peace. I tell myself, I should always feel at peace because God is my peace and there are all of these promises about the peace God gives! Meanwhile I'm ignoring whatever actual very resolvable problem is right in front of me.
For example, if I can't concentrate on writing because the kids are making noise and I'm feeling stressed because I am wondering if there is going to be enough time left to make sure they get ready for bed on time... I might just need to name these issues and go ahead and do whatever I need to do to resolve them (i.e. move myself or the children if the noise is too much. Or go ahead and start helping them get ready for bed if it's time for bed.)
Maybe the thing I want to remember is this: if there is a problem I can solve, solve it. If there is a problem I can't solve, name it and put it in God's hands.
What about you? Whether or not you consider yourself a peacemaker, my guess is most of us still value peace to some extent. If you are experiencing a lack of peace, have you thought about whether or not there is a problem contributing to how you're feeling? If so, is it one you can solve? If not, will you talk to God or to someone about it? Sometimes just talking about it can be a step toward experiencing more peace.
Then again, there are also times when the peace we're longing for is something we need to wait for. Maybe the peace God gives doesn't always translate to everything being resolved. Maybe sometimes we need to be willing to let things remain unresolved and trust that peace can exist even when everything is not yet neatly tied up.
Whether you are in the middle of something difficult in which peace feels elusive, or you are realizing there is a simple solution to a small problem you're facing, may God help all of us tap into the peace He has established for us. And as we have opportunities to be peacemakers, may we join with God's Spirit in the beautiful work of sharing His peace with each other and the world around us.
Pray with me...
Lord Jesus Christ, You said to your apostles, "Peace I give to you; my own peace I leave with you:" Regard not our sins, but the faith of Your Church and grant to us the peace and unity of that heavenly City, where with the Father and the Holy Ghost You live and reign, now and for ever. Amen.
(from the Book of Common Prayer)
Soli Deo Gloria To God alone be the glory
~ Carrie Warner, BCS/WCA Prayer Team Coordinator
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